Calendars and Days: Lag B’Omer

Tomorrow I will shoot a bow and arrow, even though when I tried less than two weeks ago, I snapped the bowstring on my arm and raised a welt the size of a rutabaga.

Lag B’Omer is tomorrow. This is a peculiar holiday, maybe the quirkiest day of the Jewish calendar. The forty days of the counting of the Omer between Peysekh and Shavuous are a solemn time. The holiday of Lag B’Omer (the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer) is a respite from that solemnity, and includes the various pleasures one does not partake of during the counting, along with various other spring-like observances and festivities.

It is a day of weddings, otherwise not permitted during this time.

It is also a day of outdoor walks and meals, of archery and bonfires and haircuts. I never had anything to do with counting the Omer when I was young (my family mostly only took note of the major holidays and, with the exception of the Passover Seder and a few nights of Chanukah, did not faithfully observe even them), so it does not really resonate with me. But Lag B’Omer is so wacky that it’s hard not to get in the mood.

In fact, I got married on Lag B’Omer, even though it was a mixed marriage, and we did not have a Jewish officiant. It was on May 13, 27 years ago. It also happened to be on Mother’s Day.

The strange thing about having two calendars is that they tend move in and out of phase. This can lead to a certain blurriness of vision. Leslie’s yortsayt (the anniversary of her death) is on the 22nd of Adar, which may or may not coincide with March 18th. This year it was pretty close– March 20th. I had the choice of which day I got to be sad and grateful. Or, if I chose, I could be sad and grateful for the whole three-day period. I went with the 18th, because it was a Saturday, and so I could feel bad about not going to synagogue to say kaddish.

Today, Saturday, is the day on the ‘American’ calendar that would have been our anniversary. But tomorrow being both Lag B’Omer and Mother’s Day feels more to the point.

In Jamaica Plain, where we lived at the time, there is also the tradition of Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum which, I’m pretty sure, always coincides with Mother’s Day. We took a walk with both our families in the Arboretum the day before our wedding, and we had lots of lilacs at the wedding itself. Many years later, when Leslie was ill, she and I and the kids were all back in Boston and went to the Arboretum on Mother’s Day. In addition to smelling the lilacs, we looked at the Bonsai collection and got a plant to take home (I don’t remember what plant), and Adam had his first migraine headache. It was a bittersweet day, at a place that had once stood for pure pleasure. So that association is an overlay on top of the other calendars.

Just now I looked on the web and saw that Lilac Sunday has moved to Saturday this year because of predicted bad weather. So it turns out that the calendar can get blurry all by itself. Likewise, I suppose if it’s too rainy here for archery tomorrow, I could try for the day after. But on Sunday I’ll have better company.

What does any of this have to do with Yiddish? It doesn’t, except that Yiddish is a mashup, a hybrid of Jewishness and worldliness. So, when for idiosyncratic and very personal reasons I have multiple calendars in my head at the same time, or when I choose to observe a bit of a colorful Jewish holiday that clearly has Pagan roots, it just has that Tongue’s Memory feeling to me.

I don’t know if you are thinking of finals time or of blooming, of endings or beginnings, or both. Or maybe one day is so odd that it seems plucked out of the season. There are enough calendars, and enough births and deaths and anniversaries, that it sometimes seems like one can choose to remember whatever one wishes on whatever day one likes. Whatever the season means to you, I wish you season’s greetings.


Bow and Arrow Challah from

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